By Chelsea Kuchik
As a “millennial” born in the early 1990’s, I am part of the first generation to be raised with computers in the household for more than just work purposes. As the oldest child, I was spoiled with ridiculous amounts of attention and toys, including computer games – a huge fad of the 90s. I could lose myself for hours exploring the moon with PuttPutt the car, deep sea diving with Freddi Fish, battling bad dreams with pajama Sam, or figuring out whodunit with Spy Fox.
As I proceeded to finally win the games or grow tired of them, I began to see more and more advertisements on Cartoon Network and Disney Channel for plenty more games on the Internet. “Ask your parents to go online and play now!” By seven years old, I was a savvy Internet user, bouncing between cartoonnetwork.com, disneychannel.com, and Neopets. My computer lab class we took once a week had my fellow students and I practicing typing with a game called “Read, Write, and Type.” I can still remember the phrases we learned to remember the key order. “Quick Ask Zoey/What Stops Xrays/Even Dogs Can’t” etc.
While I was too young to notice at the time, I can see now that the tables quickly turned on who was able to control the computer. My mother would constantly ask me questions on how to work it, rather than me needing her. In fact, my parents did not really use the computer that much other than for the occasional work document or yahoo search.
These initial experiences with the internet demonstrate many of the characteristics written about identifying New Media and why people decide to adopt it or get rid of it. For me as a young child, these games provided a new medium for me to explore. Perhaps when friends weren’t able to come over, I could still have adventures exploring the moon or solving a mystery. Sure, they only vaguely mimicked real life such as van Dijk describes, and had very limited options to deviate from the gameplay script (I remember sometimes just clicking around the screen until I could get something to happen) but for a seven year old, it most certainly served its entertainment purpose. Unbeknownst to me, most of these games also served an educational purpose that my parents enjoyed, making these games not only a medium for entertainment, but also for education, which was something new. Who knew learning could be fun?
I think the most important Ah-ha! Moment for me during my childhood would be moving from games that were one player to interactive online games, such as neopets. Receiving messages from other members online, challenging others to games, and chatting on message boards all opened my eyes to how vast the internet was. The ability to connect myself with others from all over the world was quite surprising for my 10 year old self. Looking back, I wonder what my media diet habits would be if I had not had an account on this site and learned how to socially interact online at such a young age.